National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Be ready to answer customers’ questions
Much has been said about the growing number of regulations concerning perchloroethylene and its impact on the environment and recent trends suggest that government agencies are expanding their oversight to every chemical that goes in and out of a drycleaning plant. In fact, the New York Department of Environmental Protection recently announced that, starting in February of 2014, state drycleaners will have to post the primary non-perc chemicals they utilize to clean clothes in their facilities and provide a link to information on whether or not they pose any potential health risk. Currently, perc plants in New York are already required to post informational signs about the solvent which include contact information to report odors and other problems.
As the public becomes increasingly concerned with what comes into contact with their clothes, so, too, does the government. The goal is to keep the public safe, but what does that mean? Which alternative solvents fall under that umbrella? Will regulating agencies change their minds further down the road on those they find acceptable now?
Such tough questions don’t always elicit simple answers, but those who attended the Dry Cleaning Alternatives Summit and Trade Fair in Denver certainly had every opportunity to find out all they could about alternative solvents and their future. They were also treated to firsthand perspectives of regulators from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as well as testimonies from the users, manufacturers and distributors of the solvents themselves.
Truthfully, nobody can predict the future. People learned long ago from perc that what isn’t regulated one day can become weighed down with cumbersome burdens the next. Even the regulators present at the summit could only note that, to the best of their knowledge, the alternatives are currently not considered hazardous before use. Of course, if additives such as waterproofing or spotting agents are added to the mix, those properties can potentially change.
The best recommendation is for cleaners to be responsible and determine that what they are using is not harmful to people, the planet or their profitability. In the future, drycleaners will need to be armed with more information than ever to be successful. After all, customers are becoming smarter and they are asking more questions. The cleaners they trust the most will have detailed answers and evidence to support their claims.
Help spread the good word
It’s no secret within the industry that cleaners do a lot of things for their customers and communities besides clean clothes. There are collections of coats for kids (and adults, too), free cleaning of job-interview clothes for the unemployed, recycling of all those hangers that collect in the closet, providing prom gowns for high school students who otherwise couldn’t afford them, sponsoring youth league athletic teams — the list goes on, limited only by the needs in our local communities and our creativity in coming up with ways to help.
Yes, it’s no secret within the industry, but outside the industry these good works often go unnoticed and unappreciated except maybe by those who benefit from them. Some cleaners manage to obtain good publicity for their efforts but others may feel that “blowing their own horn” when it comes to charitable efforts is not in the spirit of selfless giving. Such modesty is laudable, but look at it from a different perspective. What about doing something for that other community of which you are a part — the community of drycleaners?
There seems to be no shortage of negative media stories about drycleaners. Lost wedding gowns, surly service, environmental contamination — these are all part of the daily diet of “drycleaners in the news.” We can’t eliminate those stories, but we can balance them with stories about the good things that drycleaners do. From where we sit, it seems the good far outweighs the bad, but until the general public knows about it, the negative image will persist.
How to get the word out? Well, you could always set modesty aside for a moment and toot your own horn through press releases to your local media outlets. But if that’s just not your cup of tea, take advantage of a new program from the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute to help spread the word about the good that cleaners do. Following on the success of its successful “Drycleaners Care” hanger recycling program, DLI has begun collecting information about the many service projects of cleaners in their communities. DLI will then do the horn tooting for you — and all of the industry — by telling media producers and editors of these programs to help them get local coverage.
DLI’s goal is to promote a positive image for the industry and its members. Make it your goal to help that effort.